Oolong tea: The Long and Short of What You Need to Know

Time to learn more about Oooooloong!

Though green tea and black tea are the most basic types of tea, there are actually many more delicious options. Oolong may not be a well known type of tea in the United States, but it is one of the most popular tea varieties in Asia. The name oolong comes from the Chinese word, wulong, which is translated as “black dragon.” Here are answers to some of the questions that people commonly wonder about oolong tea.

What Is Oolong Tea?

Like all other tea leaves, oolong comes from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis. Green tea is not oxidized and black tea is, but oolong tea is always partially oxidized. Since the levels of oxidization in oolong tea are between the levels of oxidization for green and black tea, it is no surprise that the flavor of oolong tea is somewhere between the light and grassy flavor of green tea and the sweet and smoky taste of black tea. During the process of making oolong tea, the tea leaves are picked, oxidized partially, and then heated to stop the oxidation process before it is completed. Oolong teas can have oxidation levels of anywhere from eight to 85 percent. During the process, the leaves may go through various processes, such as compression or bruising, to release water and develop certain flavors. Depending on the processing of the tea, oolong can taste light and fruity or rich and chocolatey.

What Does Oolong Tea Look Like?

Depending on the oxidization levels, oolong tea might be dark green, warm gold, or deep brown in color. Unlike green tea, which may be prepared as green powdered tea, oolong tea is always a whole leaf tea. Artisanal oolong tea leaves are often shaped by hand during the oxidization process. Some leaves are rolled into tiny little balls, while others are twisted into long curls. As the leaves are steeped, they gradually unfurl, releasing different flavors at the different water temperature levels. The long twisted oolong teas resemble tiny Chinese dragons, which is how the tea got its traditional name.

Does Oolong Tea Have Caffeine?

oolong green tea in wood bowl on oak table, vintage toned

Oolong tea has more caffeine than green tea but less caffeine than black tea. The caffeine content in oolong tea can vary wildly depending on oxidization levels. A light oolong tea will have caffeine levels similar to green powdered tea, while a dark one may have more caffeine. Usually, the caffeine levels are somewhere between 50 to 75 milligrams in an eight ounce cup. The same amount of coffee has roughly 200 milligrams. This makes oolong tea an ideal choice for someone who wants a mild energy boost without the jittery effects of too much caffeine.

What Are Popular Types of Oolong Tea?

Oolong tea dahongpao isolated on white background ** Note: Shallow depth of field

A light oolong tea is barely oxidized, while a darker oolong has a richer flavor and more oxidization. Different regions throughout Asia produce different types of oolong, and tea farmers pride themselves on creating unique teas. Taiwanese oolongs tend to be lighter and less oxidized than Chinese ones. Fujian province is known for creating fruity, rich oolong tea, while Guangdong province produces sweet and flowery tea. There are so many different types of oolong tea, that you can always find one you like.

Are There Any Health Benefits to Oolong Tea?


Oolong tea has been known to benefit health in many ways. It increases metabolism, which causes people to burn more weight, and it contains ingredients that help to prevent fat buildup. The semi-oxidization of oolong creates polyphenol molecules that can actually activate enzymes that dissolve fat cells. In addition to its weight loss properties, oolong also contains antioxidants that promote healthy and beautiful skin and hair. All tea contains magnesium and calcium, which strengthens and builds bones.

How Do You Prepare Oolong Tea?

Chinese tea ceremony - sands of oolong tea ** Note: Shallow depth of field

Oolong tea is available both as loose leaf tea and tea bags. Since oolong teas can be so different from each other, each specific oolong tends to have a recommended brewing time and temperature. In general, you should use about two grams of oolong tea in eight ounces of water. The water should be slightly below boiling, around 190 degrees, and the tea should steep for roughly a minute or two. Most oolong teas are designed to be steeped multiple times, since each steeping will loosen the tightly wound leaves and release more flavors. Between each steeping, the tea should be thoroughly dried and stored in a cool, dark place. Oolong is traditionally served as a hot tea without sugar or milk, but it can also be quite tasty with ice and a small amount of sweetener.

Have you tried oolong? Let us know in the comment section below! 

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